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A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine

Review copy provided by the publisher. The author is a close friend of mine, to the point where I DMed her to screech, “my DUDE Swarm” in the middle of this book when my new favorite character did something particularly noteworthy.

Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass are back, dealing with the (NOT INCONSIDERABLE) fallout from their previous actions. Can Lsel be home again? What about all the upheaval in the reign of the new Emperor, Nineteen Adze? All of that is very much just getting started when Martine’s cool, assured prose is introducing us to an entirely new alien species. Threat or menace? We are plunged immediately into finding out–and into all the complications of finding out with the above fallout still ongoing.

Nine Hibiscus and her old friend Twenty Cicada are on the front lines of the new alien threat. (And if you’re thinking, Twenty Cicada, I thought Teixcalaanli weren’t supposed to be named after animals, 1) you are just as entranced with Teixcalaanli names as I am and 2) you are correct, this is a worldbuilding detail as well as a bit of characterization. My dude Swarm is the best.) Nine Hibiscus’s political position, as a military leader, has been immensely altered by the upheaval in the previous volume, and she has to wrangle disgruntled and politically inconvenient officers under her command as well as keeping the new aliens from pouring in and destroying Lsel Station and the Empire.

And there are modified kittens in the ductwork. Oh, and Nineteen Adze and her…extremely precocious imperial heir? They have a great deal of look-in too. Because there’s a lot going on among the ministries of War, Science, and Information, and it will take a pretty determined person to put the pieces together.

I laughed, I whimpered, I squirmed, I marveled. This is just so good. It’s so thoughtful about home and relationship and obligation and duty and communication, it’s doing all the things it’s doing on so many iterated levels, it is a beautiful book, it is in every way a delight, and you should feel free to DM me “OMG MY DUDE SWARM” when you get to various bits of this book when it comes out.


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